“Who you become is way more important than the work you do.”
Those words were spoken by Kritika Timsina, valedictorian at Baldwin High School, at graduation in June.
“The person you become is more impactful on the world,” Timsina said. “You can be inspired by someone who has grit, and that can lead you out into the world to be, and not simply do.”
Timsina, 18, said she wanted to get that message across to her classmates because that way of thinking guides her in her everyday life.
She and her family came to the United States from Nepal when she was 5 years old. They live in Whitehall.
Timsina said it has been difficult for her parents and grandmother to live in a country where they don’t know the language well and have to rely on others to speak for them.
“I feel like there is a burden in my heart,” said Timsina, who has two younger sisters. “I think when you are a child of refugees or immigrants, it is not just that I have to work for myself. It is that I want to work help my parents in their retirement. I am here to always care for them and take care of them.”
Getting a good education has always been first and foremost in her mind, she said, because she knows her parents can’t afford to pay for college.
Timsina said she found the resources about colleges at the South Hills Interfaith Movement in Bethel Park. She started attending after school-programs while she was an elementary student.
The organization offered a medical class when she was younger, but it was canceled because the Pitt student who was part of the instruction graduated.
Timsina, who is interested in the medical field, talked to her mentor with SHIM, Susie Backscheider, about bringing that back so others can have that experience as well. Backscheider worked to restart that program.
Thinking of others is Timsina’s passion, said Backscheider, who has known her for 11 years.
Timsina also participated in robotics club and running club, and went on various field trips. She said being involved in SHIM helps connect the young people and exposes them to many different experiences.
“I know Kritika will make her family proud,” Backscheider said.
Being the oldest of the children in her family, Timsina has been responsible for tasks such as handling paying the bills and setting up doctor’s appointments, details that her peers with American-born parents don’t normally have to address. During the height of the covid-19 pandemic, Timsina helped get supplies to those in her community.
“She has that special quality of doing things for others, Backscheider said. “I have watched her over the years, and she is an amazing young woman.”
Financing for college can be difficult, Timsina said. She knew if she took advanced placement classes, that would help her stand out more and prepare her for college.
She was accepted to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and spent time there in the summer program. She will be there full-time in the fall.
Being away physically from her parents, grandmother and sisters will be challenging because she often translates for them.
“I have a lot of responsibility for my family,” said Timsina, who works at Target. “I watched my aunt get her nursing degree, and she worked multiple jobs to pay it off. When I went to SHIM, I talked about going to college, and I have mentors there who have helped me. I developed good study habits in high school.”
She signed an early decision in December for Northwestern.
“It will be a big adjustment for me and my family, too,” she said. “But I won’t be that far away, and they can still call me. I can still help them from wherever I am. We have all been touched by SHIM’s kindness.
“Miss Susie is a wonderful mentor. I know I can turn to her for anything. SHIM has such wonderful resources. I formed a strong connection with them.”
That includes Seth Dubin, the nonprofit organization’s director of development and communications.
“To see her transition has really been remarkable,” he said about Timsina.
Although there have been challenges, Timsina said that living in the United States has been wonderful because it is the “land of opportunities.”
“I am not sure of how much of an education I would get in Nepal,” she said. “The possibilities here are endless and there are so many resources.”
Since 1968, SHIM has been serving the South Hills by providing support services to families. The organization helps more than 7,500 individuals every year access food, clothing, financial and utility assistance, family support, education, and more.
“Our mission is to mobilize community resources and implements sustainable programs that compassionately help neighbors meet basic needs, achieve self-sufficiency, and build community,” said Dubin.
Timsina has been a student of SHIM’s youth programming since 2013. She has also been a youth mentor.
The programs primarily support children from refugee or immigrant families, providing enrichment that empowers them to thrive in school and in life. The Youth Mentoring program empowers teens through adolescence and provides them with experiences that will prepare them for college, the workforce, and to be the next generation of community leaders.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .